Mostly about children in The Amalgamated Aggromulator

  • June 17, 2018, 8:50 a.m.
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Well, it would be shapely if I now went on into another Julian Simon-related tangent (there is one) . . . but no, at the moment I’m awake in the dark because of a thing about children. The cat is now detectable over there in the darkness on the chest of drawers under the open window, detectable by sound, because the light from my laptop attracts tiny moths to the window screen so she’s clawing and climbing on the screen trying to grab them.

You cannot ignore the current monstrosity. But what do you say when there’s nothing to add and nothing to do?

I will regret this. Waking up at 2:30 is too early. I’ll be ponderous in the morning planting the six(?) cucumber plants and then figuring out how to connect up all the drip irrigation stuff. But apparently I’ve got a mission. To do nothing of significance. Just to type.

So: children.

The Trump Administration is now separating all children from families that have crossed the border illegally.

And they’re counting crossing the border to present themselves at the border offices to apply for asylum - a legal thing and a legal purpose - as an illegal crossing of the border right behind them. (Illegal crossing in itself is only a misdemeanor. Illegal crossing as a matter of having had to cross the line right behind them in order to legally present themselves is a travesty. This as cause for confiscation of children is horrific.)

Babies have been taken forcibly from breast-feeding mothers. Parents have been told that their kids were simply being taken to have showers and then the kids were taken away (a nice Third Reich reference). Families whose asylum has been denied, who are now outside of the country, still haven’t gotten their kids back yet after months - I am thinking of one family whose baby is less than 2 years old.

Administration officials have veered back and forth between coldly talking about this as deterrence, claiming that they are merely following the law (this being a lie), and saying that this is a negotiating tool to get Democrats to agree to an immigration deal. Trump has said each of these things more baldly than even the officials quoted on condition of anonymity.

The kids are kept in huge buildings - buildings that were abandoned Wal-Marts and the like. Some of them are broken up into cage-like partitions. Others are common rooms with lots of cots. (With the damnedest murals of Trump on the interior walls.) Because of the boom in unaccompanied minors - because of the minors that the Border Patrol is making unaccompanied - there will now be tent cities, outside El Paso, Texas for example.

In summer. Supposedly the tents will be air-conditioned. One would hope.

I have been reading stories by people who have been in the group home/foster care system under even relatively normal circumstances, about what it did to them, about its legacy even after they have grown up. What under these circumstances?

When these kids act out - which, under the circumstances . . . - how do the staff deal with it? This is a very interesting question.

The matter of deterrence, meanwhile - which is pretty naked as a deliberate objective, despite a very few back-pedaling denials; the straight-out statements are much more prominent - has been explicitly directed not merely at illegal crossings in general but at applications for asylum specifically. Among Donald Trump’s base - and, in a brain-hurting circumstance, especially among the evangelical portion of his base - there is little recognition of a responsibility to take in refugees fleeing horror, and the reverse is strongly affirmed.

(Existing laws and official decisions here have combined in fascinating ways. A woman and her husband were kidnapped by El Salvadoran guerrillas in 1990. The woman’s husband was murdered in front of her. She was then put to work cooking and cleaning for the guerrillas - forced labor - slave labor. She escaped and fled to the United States. That work that she did under threat of death, the Board of Immigration Appeals has just decided, counts as “material support for terrorism”, on the grounds that she must have freed up one of the guerrillas from having to be occupied with housework. It makes her ineligible for asylum; court decisions seem to have eliminated a duress exception to the charge. Therefore her slave labor means that she is apparently going to be sent back to the country she fled to escape it. Even almost thirty years later, she is afraid she will be killed if she goes back. But evidently, in order to qualify for asylum here, she would have to have gotten herself summarily shot for refusing to work.)

I should mention something that someone else pointed out very well in Twitter - that “deliberately disproportional punishment of minor offenders for reasons having nothing to do with them . . . is the literal opposite of ‘justice’.”

To say nothing of the idea here being “that purposeful cruelty toward some will strike fear into others”.

Somewhere I saw C.S. Lewis say that in Christian ethics you can only justly punish someone if they deserve it.
The fundamentalist Christian majority position here in America is indeed fascinating. (Although it may be starting to fracture over this issue. But not among those who have pledged themselves to The Man, I’m pretty sure.)

The crows have woken up somewhere out there - I can hear their daybreak conversation - as the first high-summer deep blue glow creeps into the sky. The cat has given up and is nestled in the crook of my arm.

How many children? Well, a blurp of quantitative information for a month and a half: “The AP acquired internal Department of Homeland Security data on the program, covering the period of April 19 to May 31. Over that time span, 1,995 children were taken from their migrant parents at the border.” BUT: “This might actually be an undercount. On a call with reporters Friday, DHS officials said this number reflects only the families that have been separated when parents were sent into criminal custody to be prosecuted for illegal entry. Some families presented themselves for asylum legally by coming to a port of entry — an official border crossing — and were then separated; they weren’t included in the AP figures.

Mind you, there’s a hybrid factor here: Sometimes the Border Patrol has been intercepting people after they’ve crossed the border line but before they can reach the physical port of entry office to present themselves to apply for asylum - so, hey presto, no application for asylum is involved - so, abracadabra, there’s only an unauthorized crossing without legal purpose - so, voila, a criminal charge. And a violation of international law on the part of the Border Patrol. But, anyway, kids taken from those people would probably be counted in that figure.

I’m not serving any useful purpose. I’m writing this down. (I am thinking dizzily of this poem, loosely, I know.)

It is a frequent thought of mine that the computer time spent keeping oneself aware of exactly what is happening during this Trumpian period would be much psychologically healthier if spent looking at pornography. It’s not even close. In fact, I have mentally composed a full-length treatise on this exact point, to be delivered to no one, to be only mumbled about to myself from time to time. I’m not kidding. I have laid out to myself how Trump is worse on you in exacting detail.

You can’t not write about children. I guess. There’s so much I haven’t written about Trump. The drunk-fingered fracturing of our alliances and international friendships (this a three-volume subject). The perceptible emboldening of totalitarian alternatives elsewhere as free-world stances sag. Trump’s coziness with any dictator who will apply. The endless, endless topic of his gaseous psychology. Mostly everything just pours through, and I try to keep track. Actual conclusions are strictly speaking useless, because he doesn’t conclude.

This . . . this is happening right now. They are in those buildings.

And, for some people, those people being among those who feel empowered by Trump, I think this ruthless policy represents a victory. By its very brutalities. There are no higher laws, there is no international law, there is no overall decency; the xenophobic imperatives that this serves and exemplifies need bow to nothing and nobody. In fact, the more I look at Trump’s eager constellations, the more I think that they want a moral landscape transformed into the right people and the wrong people. A naturally tilted one. In all sorts of respects. Rights are a matter of what anyone does or doesn’t deserve, and “deserve” means “deserve according to the right people”. And with this policy this sort of imperative ingroup-deifying “morality” declares that it need apologize to no one.

Poached eggs for eyes. Yes, online smut of the Worst Sort (or “alligator duckling friends” Google searches) would have been so much easier on a tired mind. There’s just this accumulated need for a wee-hours demonstration that one is a human being. To no purpose. To no purpose.

Still time to nap before get-up time. No, wait, I drank nearly a whole pot of cold coffee at 3 a.m.

(In passing: Those stupid tall-marijuana seeds may not even produce plants at all. I probably murdered the last four; I’ve popped the last two seeds I have in between two soaked paper towels to try again. How did I murder the last four? I am embarrassed to say. I have a particular madness. Once a seedling has emerged I know what to do, but when I have planted a seed I never believe that it’s going to come up. I always believe that I’ve screwed up the planting somehow, planted them too deep or the wrong way up or something. I have no faith. So, in cases where I am particularly interested in the seeds, I plant the seeds . . . and then the next day, compulsively, I scrape away dirt to try to see development. Or I actually dig up the germinated seeds to see how they’re doing, and then I try to bury them again. And then I’ll probably do the same thing the day after that! Madness indeed. This is a very effective way to murder a seedling. For these last two seeds I am going to delegate the planting to my mother, who does not have this sort of lunacy.)

There’s another thing to write, or to transcribe. Two things about Donald Trump’s perspective.

The first is my own thought, which I think is not original and is just true:

Donald Trump will always treat his allies worse.
To him, “allies” are cronies who are dumb enough to trust him and too weak to be a threat. So he’ll abuse and squeeze them, to show who’s boss and for advantage.
Big tough sexy “adversaries” are who he wants to get in with and divide territories with.

(The rest of us use the words in different ways, ways in which he can only fake interest. They have nothing to do with him.)

The second thing is someone else’s thread on Twitter, which I also think is borne out by everything I’ve seen of Trump’s record and comments. I’ll just paste it in:

Believe it or not, Trump's insane proclamation that he will keep tariffs in place until there are no more Mercedes on Fifth Avenue gave me a moment of clarity.
I think I finally understand Trump's economic philosophy now. And we are absolutely screwed.
The one thing that you need to understand about Trump is that he is, at his core, a con man with no empathy.
Therefore, he assumes that all other people are also con men with no empathy, and every exchange of goods and services that exists in the world is, on some level, a con.
Trump assumes every transaction in the world — between people, businesses, nation-states, even between two different agencies of the same government — has a winner and a loser, a scammer and a sucker. He believes if you're not ripping someone off, you're getting ripped off.
From an economist's perspective, this is complete nonsense. Unless there are major information asymmetries or distortions of market power, and often even then, most transactions are generally to the mutual benefit of both parties. Otherwise no deals would ever get made.
But Trump — the man who created a fake university, made stiffed contractors, hired the mob, and filed for bankruptcy six times — cannot believe this.
So he goes out of his way to cherrypick how he sees the world, so that everything we do looks like either a ripoff or a steal.
It's not simply that Trump *doesn't* think the Paris Climate Agreement, Iran nuclear deal, TPP, NAFTA, or luxury cars from Germany are a good deal for America. It's that he *can't* think that.
It's an alien concept to him that a deal other people want with us could also help us.
To Trump's mind, the mere fact other countries sought out these deals with us, and that their own economies benefit, is unassailable proof we got ripped off.
He can't see the evidence they helped us too. His mind will only cherry-pick potential ways it could be bad for us.
This is why Trump will never, ever, be able to negotiate with the rest of the world. He doesn't believe in mutual benefit.
The second anyone tells him "this is your end of the deal" he'll rip it up. He believes only one party can have an end of the deal, and it shouldn't be him.
So folks, I hate to tell you this, but he's only getting started.
He will forego billions, maybe trillions, of dollars in world trade. He will forego bilateral security agreements. And if he ever gets something from another nation it will be by force.
As I said: we're screwed.
And we're not just screwed on foreign policy, but domestic. This explains his behavior over DACA, spiking two bipartisan deals even though they were what he asked for.
He assumed if Democrats were willing to talk, his deal wasn't ripping them off, ergo it would rip him off.
That implies if Democrats win Congress, we are going to enter an all-out legislative standstill like we've never before seen.
Our system is entirely reliant on compromise and compromise isn't compatible with Trump's beliefs. We will struggle to pass even basic reauthorizations.
So yeah: our nightmare is not going to end until we get this pathological con man out of office.
He is not just bad at being president, he has a defective way of seeing the world that is not compatible with being president.
And we will pay for it.


Certainly this is the man himself: “You hear lots of people say that a great deal is when both sides win. That is a bunch of crap. In a great deal you win — not the other side. You crush the opponent and come away with something better for yourself.”

And, of course, the other components to understand are that it’s always, centrally, about Trump personally and that the truth is of no concern in a way that almost demands new theories of mind in order to begin to comprehend.

(I have used the metaphor of a huge, bloated, diffuse red giant star of ego, where when Trump looks outward all he sees are his own outer layers.)

We have to get rid of him. So that we can start to pick up the music. No, worse than that. So that we can first start to pick up the musical instruments that lie discarded and kicked around the floor.

But his supporters - any and all real supporters he has come election time - will vote in percentages normally undreamed of. Because, for so many of them, in one way or another, it’s for all the marbles. Marbles that wouldn’t be as available to them in any other way. Resentful marbles consisting, in great part, of defiance, contempt, and revenge.

Trump is scary, but in the sense of a huge wild animal in the wrong place - a near-sighted, irritable, impulsive Cape buffalo in the middle of an all-glass-tubing central command for hospital life support.

His supporters are scarier.

Yes, including Putin.

1 year, 147 days, 20 hours, 33 minutes and 40 seconds in.

Last updated June 17, 2018

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